(Isstories Editorial):- New Delhi, May 5, 2018 (Issuewire.com) – The Annual Budget (2018-2019) brought good news and promises to the women of India, to Women Self Help Groups (SHGs), with the announcement of an increase in loans to SHGs from Rs. 42,500 crores in 2018 to Rs. 75,000 crores in 2019. This is a ray of hope for the women’s Self Help Groups in the country, which have proven to be effective and essential in increasing women’s participation and contribution to the economy.
This intervention comes at a time when Indias position on the World Economic Forums (WEF) Global Gender Gap Index slipped 21 places to 108, primarily due to reduced participation of women in the economy and due to lower wages. The latest ranking is 10 notches lower than its reading in 2006 when the WEF started measuring the gender gap. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), in early 2017, while jobs for men increased by 0.9 million, 2.4 million women fell off the employment map in India. The number of women dropping out of Indias economic development and employment opportunities is discouraging as only 27% Indian women are currently in the labour force. India’s mission to achieve gender equality can only be accomplished if the women’s social status as well as their economic status is raised. The latter has been slowly, but steadily progressing with the recent inclusion of women in the countrys financial policies and schemes.
Things have looked up for the women’s inclusion in the annual budget as the focus has shifted from their household contribution to the incorporation of a gender lens in various financial policies and decisions by the government. This is clearly evident by the fact that, Loans to self-help groups of women increased to about Rs. 42,000 crores in 2016-17, growing 37 percent over the previous year. The growth of SHGs run/led by women in India has been an encouraging factor for increased investment in the coming year. Taking the cue from the annual budget, the state government of Madhya Pradesh has announced that Sakhi Mandal (Womens Self Help Groups) will have single loan rate across the state, in addition to other benefits from the state. This was also a part of suggestions from the citizens through different participatory committees formed prior to the budget.
Traditionally, in India, a Women’s Self Help Group consists of about 10-20 members from similar backgrounds who pool in their resources and create a network of savings and lending which is used to solve the problems of the members or to start a commonly benefiting enterprise. Even the Reserve Bank of India has accepted this as an alternative credit system with impact in areas and communities where micro-finance or micro-credit fails to reach or help. They are supported by governments, non-profit organizations, banks and even corporate, in some cases. The Self Help Groups have been known to positively impact finance, education, public health, sanitation as well as community development and their impact is higher in areas where intervention by government/bank/micro-credit policies is the least. This explains the important role of this model in the inclusion of and contribution of women in India’s Gross Domestic Product and has put it under the spotlight of economists for being one of the promising contributors to India’s GDP.
Ekta Shakti Foundation has also assisted in the creation of four Self Help Groups of 10 women each. The four groups are Annapurna SHG, Maa Durga SHG, Savitri SHG and Bharati SHG. These SHGs have been formed to function across 93 Anganwadi centres at Ekta Vihar Project around the Haiderpur area in New Delhi. Each group has a President, a Secretary and a Treasurer from among them.
ESF looks forward to their potential being properly channelized to make each of them an empowered pillar of strength who can bring about a wave of positive change through financial independence and contribute in their own way to the economic development of the country.
With the new announcement in the annual budget, women’s role in development of the capital and economy has again been brought to focus. Clearly, this is the year of enterprises led by women and it is no denying the fact that women’s Self Help Groups are positively going to impact the rate of women’s participation in the economic development.
It leaves a renewed encouragement and hope to keep striving and growing towards a nation of empowered women.
Ekta Shakti Foundation